Angelic

Being an angel is not an easy task. Let’s just think about it for a moment and and try to imagine how it would actually feel like to have no bodily needs. To be free of every human obstacle, and able to traverse and travel in different dimensions of time and space.

To be freed from uncontrollable impulses, greed, and all other unpleasant biological states, like the inevitability of death. What is there to do for an angel in this world, one might wonder. This creature can only enjoy its benefits and surround people with celestial warmth, a heavenly aura. You surely felt at least once in your life that someone, or something, is hovering behind your shoulder? Like an invisible knight whose task is to travel by your side and keep you safeguarded from evil… Your Guardian Angel is always there for you, watching you silently while whispering unheard beautiful melodies into your ear! One must learn how to recall them!

Artwork: Fra Angelico , The Annunciation (1442-43), Early Renaissance

Zima

Zima’ (rus; зима) is a pronunciation of the word ‘winter’ in Russian. Russia is where the winter season is the most remarkable and inevitable. Winter is also the longest season for this territory.  Snow covers pavements and avenues, rooftops and tree branches from mid-November until the end of March. But one must leave the big city in order to capture the real beauty of the winter’s white snowy forests; the true magic awaits you in the woods. Winter provides everyone a chance to dab into the darker side. Lack of sunshine can well stimulate one into submerging into the inner depths of their subconscious.

Music can become something indispensable and uplifting during the long winter evenings. What could be more miraculous and incontestable than real music? It is one of those things that come and go without saying; it is so materialistic, yet absolutely divine!

The quality of perception also differs during the cool festive period. It is then and there where everyone remains wishful of the miracles of Christmas…Zima album will be released in December. It is a certain culmination to the cycle of piano albums devoted to seasons: ‘La Primavera’, ‘Summer’ and ‘L’Automne’, albums released by Anna Bondareva in 2021.

Extravaganza

When one hears the word ‘extravaganza’, its somewhat bizarre sounding name already keeping us intrigued.  It promises something mysterious and out of everyday rhythm, a certain departure to another world with the help of a supernatural power; like in a story by Edgar Allan Poe where the Angel of the Odd appears to the main hero and makes him confess that the bizarre really can occur. The 19thcentury British dramatist, James Planché, was known for his extravaganzas. Planché defined the genre as “the whimsical treatment of a poetical subject.”

At the same time, extravaganza could be associated with an expensive and elaborate theatrical production, something truly spectacular!

 

The term derives its origins from the Italian word stravaganza, meaning oddness or strangeness. Is definitely something out of the ordinary; always transcending the boundaries of generally accepted norms. An extravaganza musical work is often characterized by freedom of style and structure. All these can be applied when speaking of Anna’s new piano album of the same title ‘Extravaganza’.

The incredible and incendiary mood of her danceable sharp piano compositions, combined with the atypical harmonies inherent in the neoclassical style, together create a truly unique quality album. To end this year on a high note, these most enchanting piano pieces will even bring the gloomiest mood out of stagnation.

 

Venezia

“Venice – an inexhaustible carnival, a hazy parade of masks and well-hidden secrets. You will not have time to leave the platform of Santa Lucia station, because you will be enveloped by a peculiar smell of molto vecchi (very old) algae which has the effect of witchcraft. Venice is a city you immediately and forever fall in love with. A few years later, I was fortunate enough to visit Venice during the winter and came to find the deserted San Marco square covered in fresh white snow. I remember turning and dancing and capturing on my warm face the slowly descending snowflakes like spiral pirouettes in the dark night sky.

During the summer, Venice looked and tinted completely differently. Endless crowds of tourists rush to saturate their exhausted eyes with mechanical adoration of the gracious beauty of the melancholy treasures of this peninsula. If someone asked about my preference, summer or winter in this Magical Republic, my answer would be: “Venice, any time of the year!”

An excerpt from the book ‘Moon Arch’ by Anna Bondareva.

 Venezia, new piano album by Anna Bondareva. Release date 23rd of November.

Fortune Telling

In historical archives, one might find evidence that various forms of fortune-telling were practiced in ancient Egypt, China, Chaldea, and Babylonia as far back as 4000 BCE. High importance in ancient religion and medicine was attributed to prophetic dreams and oracular utterances. Fortune-telling is one of the most intriguing occupations.

Through the study of handwriting, facial characteristics, contours on the skull, or even lines on the palm of the hand, one can determine through various natural, psychological and other techniques the hidden significance or causes of past and future events alike.

 Interpretation of the movements of heavenly bodies as influences on earthly events is a purpose of astrology art. Its tradition and roots are hidden under warm duvet made from a thousand legends as old as the world. One thing that is certain is that no one can give you a complete assurance whilst trying to predict your future.

The reality of the present is the only thing that matters, and no matter how clear the prediction is, it can only be applied to this very moment. Everything around us is in constant motion, like a stream of water, nothing stays still; life is never in passive mode, even when we can’t move we remain in motion still. In this way, fortune-telling is very similar to creating music process; one must stay tuned to the present moment and capture the best out of its fluids, transforming chaotic sounds into a harmony, creating a forecast through melodically composed sentences. Let’s try to foresee the future by plunging in to the world of musical signs.

Fortune Telling piano album by Anna Bondareva release date 20th of November!

To Autumn

Each season of the year has its unique qualities and purpose. Autumn is the time to collect fruits, fruits of all kinds. Trees begin looking and sounding differently, whenever the wind blows.The Forest in Autumn”, Gustave Courbet

Even the remaining birds that have not yet left for the season are rarely singing.  The sky fills with heavy rainy clouds while each ray of sun is perceived almost as a miracle. The aroma of fallen leaves rises up in the air and mingles with the smell of burning logs in the chimneys of cozy houses. Unforgettable yellow, incredible shades of red; sometimes autumn leaves become so crimson that they appear nearly purple.

But the main color of autumn is gold, a color with a purely cosmic origins. Gold pre-exists the formation of the Earth, the strongest forces in the earth’s mantle are unable to change the composition of gold’s atomic nucleus.

This is what autumn is like. We can no longer change the currency of events; all the aims we pursued since the start of the year now come to their final state, and we have to just accept the cause and preserve what is left. It gets darker earlier, days are shorter and tasks are less demanding. Autumn is there for us to enjoy the existing achievements and gather all the forces for the coming winter and New Year.

As inspiring and fairy as the French autumn forest, the new piano album by Anna Bondareva  L‘Automne was recorded in France. Let’s feel this golden warmth of French autumn via an extravagant piano music.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;

To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,

And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells

With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,

And still more, later flowers for the bees,

Until they think warm days will never cease,

For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?

Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find

Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,

Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind…

An extract from ”To Autumn’, the poem by John Keats

 

 

Spirit of Joan

Hunting Shadows: Spirit of Joan, Mont Saint Michel.

How else would God speak to me, if not through my imagination? All battles are first won or lost, in the mind.
Joan of Arc

The story of “Agent Bond” began for me from the first days in London. During any casting, to remember my name more easily, the English asked me again: ”Oh yes, you’re Anna Bonda…, like Mr. Bond, right? Wow, great!” Then, as it should be, the smiles came and exchanges of pleasantries. I rented a room from Nigel and Amy in a building in Queens Park for eighty pounds a week. Nigel, an Australian, was in the lighting design business and was planning to open a studio soon. Amy was working as a model and was soon to go on maternity leave. From day one I sensed that Nigel was attracted to me, and I tried to avoid chance encounters with him in the kitchen as I had three more weeks to go and there was no better accommodation in central London. Every day I left early in the morning to go to castings or jobs. It was my first season in London and I was sure I would be lucky! I had enjoyed English at school, but the long-awaited arrival in Britain did not produce the enthusiasm I had hoped for. In a year spent in Paris I had had time to get used to my small, comfortable, furnished apartment, which I rented in the very cozy seventeenth arrondissement from an archaeologist who had gone on an expedition to Egypt. But London, heterogeneous and immense, where taxis were very expensive, was a difficult test. “Don’t worry, you’ll soon get used to it,” said Nigel. “It wasn’t easy for me coming from Australia either, where I had my own car and the climate was much better, but here in London there are so many opportunities! A girl like you will definitely get noticed!”

Nigel made a mini-poster, a collage with my photos and the inscription in English: ‘Meet Miss Bond, Agent 007!’ Indeed, everything went well, I shot a lot for luxury magazines and I was invited to participate in the next season of the fashion week. However, when I was asked to come to Paris again, I was happy to return. After England, France felt like my home and to this day I can’t forget that feeling. Afterwards, whenever I had to leave Paris for a long time, I felt a relief when I came back. Perhaps, the answer to this question should be sought in the experience of past reincarnations in France, which I do not doubt at all.

In the spring of 2011, the British Film Institute screened  ”It’s A Serendipitous Thing” by Cassius Matthias, in which I had a lead role; that’s how I got an agent in London. Jeremy Conway once brought Anthony Hopkins to the big screen. After a personal meeting in his office, the agent told me he had a job for me in England. He wanted me to become the next “James Bond Girl” and immediately arranged an audition in London with the film’s main casting director: “So, it’s not bad at all, if you have prepared all this in one evening. Nice to meet you!” I knew that the casting director liked me. The meeting took place on my birthday and everything went very well despite the fact that the text only reached me the evening before the audition. However, fate decided otherwise, but I did not regret that this role went to a French woman. Ten days before I had already been chosen for a role in another film, where I had to hold a medieval sword in my hands. And when, a year later in the final scene, I saw Javier Bardem blowing the head of the beautiful girl with a gun, I was happy not to have had to die like that on screen!

There is no such thing as a missed opportunity – everything is a rhythm. If a person aspires to universal harmony and constantly refines his receptors responsible for the right rhythm, which is given only by the heart, it is possible that in such a harmonious movement he will grow correctly internally.

One day, right at the start of my meeting with Vladimir Stepanov and his Ship of Fools, he came, with many people, to visit me in Montmartre. The group of followers from various social ranks followed his philosophy and his remarkable approach to all kinds of situations that one can encounter during the complicated journey called A Human Life. I was always amazed at how patiently and mercifully he treated the people around him. At times, it seemed to me that many just didn’t deserve the time that was given to them. I didn’t quite understand why Vladimir saw so many people and I asked him. He replied: ”All this is work for the future and for future reincarnations. In this reincarnation many people rest and may seem to be idle. In fact, they gain strength and wisdom to take a leap forward or a special mission in the future.”

In February, we went as a large group to Normandy. First we went to the picturesque rocky town of Étretat – a place where the impressionist Claude Monet loved to paint. Then we headed out at night to visit the fortified island of Mont Saint-Michel. Many of us were visiting the island for the first time. As we climbed the small stone stairs, people did not feel tired, the atmosphere that reigned was magical and the magical reality in which we suddenly found ourselves, resembled the one that weaves our dreams.  When we reached the top of the medieval chapel dedicated to the Archangel Michael, everyone stopped at the entrance of the temple where a statue of Joan of Arc proudly stood. Vladimir could speak in such a way that only the person to whom it was addressed could hear it. Vladimir Grigoryevich changed the density of space in an unbelievable way, pushing time aside and bringing ordinary people closer to the stars. He constantly created his reality in unison with Eternity. I remember how I felt when Vladimir said those words; it was as if I had heard what I knew, what I had expected to hear for a long, long time: “Anna or Anne, almost like Jeanne… This girl looks a lot like you!”

Statue of Joan of Arc, Mont Saint- Michel, France, Normandy

An exclusive book excerpt from Anna Bondareva’s “Making Of: Trusted Chronicles” 

city of lights

Anna Bondareva, author of ‘Making Of: Trusted Chronicles’,
tells us about the great time she spent in Paris and, meeting inspiring artists, who became life-long friends who helped her remain tuned and creative. 

City of Lights

Life itself is just a brief moment of eternity, which must be taken immediately and from which one must take an advantage to party, whenever the occasion presents itself. Until recently, Paris used to be a great big restaurant where one could partake in a good time. But all the terror the French capital has gone through recently, including a deadly massive attack in the concert hall, Bataclan, on the 13thof November 2015, followed by the big fire that destroyed the flash of Notre Dame cathedral on the 15th of April 2019 have changed the whole ambiance of the “city of lights” forever.

I was lucky enough to live and experience other happier moments, and to meet great characters who have since sadly left this world.  Red cashmere scarf around the neck in black tie ban, always with a hat, always very chic, Yves Corbassière (1925 – 2020), was born a viscount. He never ceased to amaze the bohemian Parisian crowd whenever he appeared in public. His close friends and contemporaries included Charles Aznavour, Robert Hossein, Tino Rossi, Yves Montand, Alain Delon, and Rudolph Nureyev, to name just a few. As well as all those who could not stay in at home, instead they’d preferred the clinking of glasses and the hectic conversations, the beautiful women and the agitation of younger’s, around a big round table covered with starched white tablecloth. To create a menu card for the piano bar of the legendary Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Corbassière was invited at the request of the great actress Marlene Dietrich herself. The Hollywood star had lived many years on avenue Montaigne,  in the building opposite of Plaza Hôtel, and often went there to enjoy a coffee.

Yves invited me to attend the recompose of the Legion of Honor for his close friend, Eric Fréchon, the grand chef of the Bristol Hotel, Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The event took place at the Elysée Palace in presence of then French president Nicolas Sarkozy.  For security reasons, the guest list had to be submitted three days prior to the event for vetting and verification. I had originally traveled from London to Paris for some film auditions and meetings, but then received and accepted the invitation from the artist with joy and pleasure and extended my stay in Paris for a few more days.

Upon arrival to the presidential residence, Yves Corbassière settled down in a comfortable armchair in the ceremonial hall carefully examining his varnished oak cane with a silver handle, as he then began sharing his thoughts. “Yes, often I have no one to talk to about that time, because no one understands the intricacies of old-fashioned humor. The charters, the customs, the particular mode and art of communication and even the aesthetic of models have all changed.” At his age of eighty-five, the artist exhibited much autonomy. He still drove a car, enjoyed tasting rare French wines, and gave etiquette lessons to those newly hired service staff members of luxury Parisian establishments. But above all, the artist continued right until the end to do what was most important in his life – he continued to paint. The French he spoke, we could not hear elsewhere, but only at the cinema! He used phoned me often, and we had long conversations; it was a great fun speaking to him. “I never get bored because I can look at my memories as if watching an endless movie; I can pause, freeze a favorite moments, and even hear the voices of beloved long-gone friends. I should keep making art as long as my hand holds a brush firmly and my eyes require no extra aid. In the universe there is an inexhaustible reserve of themes for an artist, but the charm of a woman is a separate chapter. I can paint the woman endlessly. I draw her everywhere: with a marker on plates, with a pencil on the paper table napkins, then in my atelier on the canvases. The woman, for me, is like an elusive star. I look everywhere for her radiation.”Over the last few years the artist has lived and worked in a comfortable pavilion located in a small, picturesque village, just 40 kilometers away to the west of the Bois de Boulogne. One day I found the time to visit the master in his workshop. As usual, we started to chat. The artist showed me photographs and sketches, telling me he had begun to find it more and more difficult to paint. “I have nothing to regret. The only thing I would like to do is to have had traveled more.” He said with the slightest sadness, which had quickly disappeared as he picked up his speech and changed the subject. “For me, the Slavic countries, as well as the Slavic female beauty, remain under the veil of mystery. There is something inaccessible and a little crazy about Russian literature and the Eastern European folklore in particular. The Slavic soul somehow remains inaccessible to us, we, the Western people of reason and logics, simply cannot grasp its full potential.” Subsequently, the artist went to a nursing home, a hospice from where no one comes back. Once I visited him there, he brought out from underneath of his bed a fantastic bottle of red wine, served exclusively for guests. I asked him what the greatest pleasure and value for a person in his life would be and here is what the artist said to me. “In my opinion, music is the most perfect of the arts. I have played the piano since childhood. Once I could surprise a happy audience with some jazz improvisation. I’ll tell you a secret, I wanted to become a professional pianist but fate made its choice, and I became quite a good painter, a great schemer, and a great lover of music! And what makes a successful film? A talented director? A good cast? An expensive décor, or an unforgettable soundtrack?  Surely, you can make a good movie! That’s a great idea!”

I told Yves about my screenplay because it was him I imagined when I was writing some scenes. Likewise, I was thinking of a character, someone like Pierre Richard, who could have perfectly personified the painter on screen. During one of the dinners organized by Corbassière in a gourmet restaurant with a very musical name, Arpège, I met Richard. Previous to this, another friend of mine, the great painter, Sergei Chepik, attempted to introduce me to the actor Richard because I wanted to talk to him about my script. Chepik (1953 – 2011), who was one of the greatest painters to emerge from the former Soviet Union, painted a magnificent portrait of the French actor who had a very warm attitude towards Russia. Richard’s popularity there grew bigger than it was at home. Indeed, it is there that he felt the love of the public, like nowhere and nothing else. Pierre Richard was kind enough to give me his coordinates and we met right after at the theater during his one-man show where I had also been invited by my agent, Jolanta Bernard.  It was a very nostalgic and touching performance, where Richard read letters he had received from different people as well as legendary colleagues and friends throughout his career. The actor on stage was in his element, retelling funny stories and capturing memorable moments, all while improvising a lot. He truly had the ability to communicate with the public so openly and freely. After the show, I appreciated Pierre Richard even more. Recently, we went to a premiere of one of Pierre’s films, Un Profile pour deux. The screening was being held at one of the cinemas at Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Today, Richard, “The Tall Blonde man with one Black Shoe”, is 87 years of age and still rolling.

 

 

Manoel de Oliveira

Go ahead, Jeanne!

Time, which changes people, does not alter the image we have of them.

Marcel Proust

My husband and I arrived in Porto in March. We were invited by the family of the de Oliveira dynasty: the son was a painter and, his father, Manoel de Oliveira, was the oldest filmmaker in the world. He died when he was 106 years old, but his age did not stop him from doing what he loved most – making films. I was very interested in getting to know the only 100-year-old director in the world. My husband wrote a preface dedicated to the works of his son, who is named after his father but with the surname Casimiro.Manoel de Oliveira in Lisbon Story by Wim Wenders

Nine years before his death in 1932, Raul Brandão wrote the play “Gebo and the Shadow“, after which Manoel de Oliveira made a film in 2011, making the kerosene lamp a hero in its own right. At the end of the film, Shostakovich’s eerie Symphony No. 15 sounds, the composer’s most personal and mournful music dedicated to the anticipation of death.

Nevertheless, when I found myself on Manoel’s film set in Paris in the autumn of the same year 2011, I saw that death had no hold on this lively director. His wife, with whom we spoke in French in the dressing rooms, told me: “The secret of the youth of the centenarian Oliveira is that he has been swimming in the ocean every morning for ninety years! Despite the low temperature of the water, in any season, my Manoel never gets sick!”

“Go ahead, Jeanne!”  Exclaimed the director after the camera had started rolling. In Manoel’s greeting there was a very deep recognition. Despite the success and experience of many years, even great actors need constant encouragement during the shooting. And the competition between the actresses and the fight for the director’s attention are part of the routine.

On the way back to the city, after a quiet but emotional day of shooting, I thought about the incredible relationship between Manoel and his wife Maria. It was impossible to look at this couple without genuine affection. In fact, that’s what I dreamed of, a close-knit family, to be able to live together every day in harmony, to look into each other’s eyes and feel confident. No matter how high my career was, it couldn’t quell my deep sense of loneliness, which I felt more and more. In recent months, the relationship with my husband was becoming increasingly difficult due to long separations from each other’s work, unavoidable events and innuendo. In the summer, during the last shoot, the emotional peak reached an extreme point and I hardly managed to finish. Something was lost forever but it was impossible to accept it. There was just the hope that time would put everything back in place. How to go on living, I didn’t know. I had to think about it. In such a state, I could not return immediately to my husband in London.

An Exclusive Book Excerpt from Anna Bondareva’s ‘Making-of :Trusted Chronicles’

meeting in the train

The crowded carriage of the Euro star branded train was filled to capacity. While all passengers were taking care of their business, a woman of indeterminate age with a chiseled profile looked out the window but did so somehow differently. Everything was different about her. “As soon as we get on the way I shall begin my approach”, I thought to myself. It is wonderful to be an artist, and it certainly makes it extremely easy to meet women. One only needs to offer to make a sketch portrait and a beautiful stranger is more or less ready to continue the evening, she might even caress you with a gentle flirtatious look. That look will lead you to an inevitable adventure, satisfaction guaranteed! Perhaps that is why I chose this job for myself in the first place. I needed to please women badly. So that they see in me a royal likeness of higher powers, awaking their most secret desires, making them feel sexy like a goddess or a queen Cleopatra. That is how I became a draftsman, seducing everyone for the sake of vanity. Where was the real Eric, and what did he want to say? What could bring new things to this world, what ideals to glorify, and what to fight for?! I did not look for answers to these questions anymore. I just kept moving “forward” without noticing that since some long-time ago, my inner locomotive began to go backwards surely and securely. After the train departed, twenty minutes had passed before I returned to the place where I saw Helen for the first time.  But she was no longer there. Passengers who could be considered as her neighbors assured me that there was never a woman at the window.

“No,” I said to myself, “This cannot be! They must have not seen the stranger mysteriously disappear from the carriage.” I moved to the bar car, and, and whilst waiting for the fulfillment of my order I began hearing a hum of low voices. Listening to the conversation, I recognized a dialogue consisting of a woman and a man. The woman’s voice whispered, with trepidation, that she had lost the most intimate of things, namely, a hope for Heaven, and now, having seen all her sinful fall, it is not clear to her what to do. She believed that her sins were so grave that the Almighty may no longer hear her prayers. The man’s voice answered something, but it was impossible to make out what he said exactly. I turned around and saw Helen standing there. There she was, an unknown splendid blonde with beautiful sensual mouth from my carriage, she set in the company of an extraordinary old man. “Are you going to the autumn salon? Are you invited to take part in Frieze Art Fair?”

This time the man’s voice spoke toward me; it had an inhuman piercing vibration and incredible texture. “Yes, exactly there”, I answered and continued, “Listen, can I buy you something, a drink? What would you like?”

“Just coffee, if you don’t mind”, the woman replied while looking distantly away at the window. The thought of Helen never left my mind since the very first moment I saw her in the train. Now I knew,  it was she who made this speech about “life in heaven”, and I decided to ask. “It is impossible to believe that everything that I just accidentally heard about, in fact, has a place to be”.

“You are right! People rarely rely on someone’s word, although many are driven by their own instincts”, the old wise man gave me a sharp look. I wanted to raise my right hand to undo the top button of my shirt collar, but I couldn’t even move a finger. This numbness lasted for what felt like an indefinite time, it seemed that everything in the world just stopped, and only after the old man invited me to take a deep breath did I return to life and was able to make a move. A feeling of horror gripped me at the thought that “some force” paralyzing me like this, and suddenly I could no longer hold my paint brush in my hand. In that very second, for the first time ever, hitherto unshakable self-confidence, which had been so thoroughly strengthened over the years, fed by various sources from outside, suddenly disappeared.

“Yes, imagine, when this will be happening to you for real!”, the old man seemed to be addressing me with all seriousness, but now he was winking playfully, as he kept looking straight at his charming companion, at Helen. I sat down at the next table and they brought me a beer with pistachios. I wanted to say “thanks” to the waitress, but instead I could only let out an unnatural groan that was more similar to a dog.

“Hope you are doing better now, Eric,” the old man kept smiling. And how could this perspicacious person know my name, is it written on my forehead ?! “Oh, well, of course, he recognized me from the gossip reports”, a thought flashed through my mind. “I’m Eric, a famous painter and so many know me.” But now, I began to doubt it. The freed hand eagerly reached for the cold drink. After the first sip, my composure completely returned to normal, and I continued aloud. “I hope to get a good time out in London, Paris has completely exhausted me.” I did not recognize my own voice, it sounded disgusting.

The old man and the woman did not pay any attention to my pronounced statement. I was about to offer them another drink together, and the woman burst into such serene laughter that I, involuntarily, whined from powerlessness. I fell into a frank stupor. When I was going to say something like “great” again, I inevitably found myself facing an inexplicable internal obstacle that simply inhibited me from building a full-fledged proposal. I closed my eyes trying to stay centered, and fell into some kind of indefinite trance. Time flew by quickly and a message about an imminent arrival to London flashed through the train. My companions evaporated in an unknown direction, and I returned to my seat to collect my things.

At King’s Cross Station, I was met by the driver of the Dorchester Hotel in a dark blue Jaguar. He drove me to my destination without unnecessary courtesies. On the way, I tried in vain to discard the memories of what had happened on the train. But with indignation and shame, my ears were bloodshot. The laughter of a beautiful blonde stranger, continuously sounded somewhere in the back of my cranium.  The face of the mysterious old man stood in front of my gaze, as if alive. Everything he said, and the sound of his voice uttered, seemed to be engraved in my memory.

Will I ever see Helen again?

An extract from My Name is Eric, a novel by Anna Bondareva